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Labels can be confusing

POSTED: September 9, 2009 4:00 a.m.

I have, frankly, been “turned off” by the yelling and name-calling, which has punctuated the supposed town hall meetings and the debate about health care reform. But it has reminded me that I have long been opposed to the derogatory use of labels to characterize those who do not agree with one’s own point of view.


In fact, such usage usually stifles rather than stimulates true discussion and consideration of the facts of a situation under debate.


Let’s look, for instance, at the adjective “liberal,” which is generally defined as “generous, open-handed, broad-minded.”


When capitalized and used as a noun, those who do not claim to be Liberals often treat the word as though it means one who desires to throw away all convention and to change every tradition.


A conservative person is literally defined as one who prefers to keep an existing situation or tradition rather than make very much change, but the so-called Liberal may deem a Conservative as one not willing to face reality or to acknowledge existing needs.


Then there are the labels of “Left” (those who desire extreme changes) and “Right” (those resisting any change at all). These are hurled back and forth almost as accusations of treason. Seldom does one extreme actually listen to the other.


As a college debater, I learned one thing for sure. If you don’t get the facts straight or if you depend upon clichés and prejudices, your opponents will surely call your hand - or at least they should. I am, therefore, hoping that the smoke will clear and that all of us will be able to evaluate our present situation - in health care or whatever— and discuss options in a civil and unbiased manner in order to come to a rational decision.


Speaking of words and their meanings, the media has certainly stretched the meaning of “celebrity.” Stemming from the verb “celebrate,” it originally designated one who was honored and those whose deeds were celebrated.


Nowadays, however, it simply refers to one who is well known, and that can mean infamous as well as famous.


Sometimes I don’t recognize all the famous, I’ll admit, but somehow the infamous always get into the limelight.

  Helen Taylor’s column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News. 


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